Top 10 small bars in Sydney
In recent years, the small bar scene has been one of the most dynamic aspects of Sydney night life. New small bars appear each month and some shine brightly before fading into the background. Others continue to draw the crowds years after opening. In Sydney, people are now spoilt for choice but that doesn't make it any easier to find the best ones. This list of Top 10 small bars will guide you through the best experiences Sydney has on offer. There are no restrictions: the small bars can be cocktails bars, wine bars or just a friendly place to grab a drink. The list balances a range of factors including price and fun factor. A bar might look good, but it has to have something more to make the top 10.
The Top 10 Last updated January 2018
1. The Long Goodbye A welcomed step away from zany themes to reveal a more sophisticated and fun bar, without the need for pretentiousness. The unique drink ordering system makes you wonder why nobody thought of it sooner.
2. Baxter Inn The fact you can turn up any night here and find it buzzing speaks for itself. Rainy Wednesday night in the middle of winter? No problem. Classy, unique and featuring a policy that everyone is welcome makes it a pleasant change to the evil door practices that plague Sydney. There's no food, but you don't come here to eat. It's no wonder it has also made the cut on many international best bar lists. If you go to just one small bar in Sydney, go to Baxter Inn.
3. Frankie's Pizza A place to dance, open til 3am, five pinball machines, rock and roll, pizza all night, a choice of 50 beers and wines to match. What more could you want in a place? It's a shame that it's popularity is starting to impact the vibe somewhat, causing Frankie's to lose its number one position in the process.
4. Low 302 Decorated with a grand piano, smokey mirrors and red velvet curtains, Low 302 is both tasteful and comfortable with plenty of options to find a quiet corner or sit around a larger table to socialise. Behind the bar, the talented staff know their trade, and can offer suggestions if you are having trouble chosing from the concise but interesting menu. The 2am close is a bonus.
5. Shady Pines Saloon
The epitome of the small bar scene in Sydney, it is surprising and delighting. There is no sign, it's down a quiet and seedy-looking laneway (like it's sister venue: Baxter Inn) and inside it's another world, like you have just stepped through a portal. Free peanuts, country and western music, refined cocktails, beers and whiskey. Above all - it's loud and fun.
6. Della Hyde There is no going past the fact this place has an intimate, low-key feel with the bonus of attentive staff and a good selection of food and cocktail options.
7. Absinthe Salon An art-deco shrine that is dedicated to chasing the green fairy, aka drinking absinthe. It is small and probably a place you won't visit every week, but there is little doubt you'll tell friends about your time there. Go for the experience, even if it's just once.
8. Palmer and Co It's a place people rave about and it deserves a lot of praise. If it's the only small bar you've been too, you'd probably expect it at the top of the list but go to the other nine first and judge for yourself. The space is interesting with amazing attention to detail but Palmer & Co really feels like a small bar version of other hotels owned by the Merivale group: it's done well, it's often crowded, and a bit pricey. However, the late close is just what the city needs.
9. Love, Tilly Devine The first time you visit Love, Tilly Devine you'll find probably find yourself saying 'wow'. Not so much because of the wine bar per se, but the ritual of discovering it for the first time. It starts when you head down a dodgy alley and around the corner to a stripped brick frontage that looks like a page straight out of Sydney history. Space is a little tight which is why people spill out into the nearby laneway. Go for the wine and grab some light snacks to match.
10. Oxford Circus Three different bars, friendly service, entertainment, inexpensive drinks, 3am close. In April 2017, the bar was sold, hence it's drop in the ratings.
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